In a major crackdown on the misuse of social media to spread fake or misleading information about the current COVID-19 situation in India, the Ministry of Information Technology on Sunday directed social media platforms to take down nearly 100 posts or URLs spreading misinformation and creating panic among people about the ongoing crisis. The directions were given on the recommendation of the Ministry of Home Affairs to prevent escalation of public order through misleading posts carrying unrelated, old and out of the context images or visuals.
“It is pertinent to mention that at a time when the entire country is putting up a brave and honest effort to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, certain people are misusing social media to create panic in the society. Government welcomes criticisms, genuine requests for help as well as suggestions, but it is necessary to take action against those misusing the platforms during this grave humanitarian crisis for unethical purposes,” the Ministry said in a statement.
Following the directions, Twitter has deleted a host of tweets flagged by the Centre as spreading "fake news" about the Coronavirus pandemic. The social media giant clarified that the accounts were not restricted due to criticism of the government's handling of the COVID-19 crisis but for spreading fake news by posting old pictures to create panic among the people.
India is grappling under the second wave of Coronavirus pandemic that led to a record spike of 3.5 lakh daily cases, which is the highest in the world. The active caseload in the country stands over 25.5 lakh and nearly two lakh people have died of the virus in the past two years.
The massive spike in caseloads has triggered critical shortages of hospital beds, medicines and life-saving oxygen. Disturbing visuals from the worst-hit states show family members and friends of COVID-19 patients scrambling to arrange beds and medical supplies outside hospitals.
The Central government has been heavily criticised in light of all this, with opposition leaders and medical experts questioning its lack of preparation since the first wave peaked in September 2020. The Opposition has also objected to the Centre’s vaccination policy under which manufacturers can sell directly to states and private hospitals at higher prices than those offered to it.